Medals and the Man

Monthly Feature

Medals and the Man

September

36th Regimental Medal

This months features a Regimental Medal to the 36th of Foot from the Museum's collection - it is is unnamed and the colour of the ribbon is unknown as well. It is one of only 2 known examples.

August

Lt Col WF Chipp

Lt Col Chipp, the most decorated Herefordshire Regiment soldier served in uniform from 1899 until 1956 and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order twice, the Military Cross, Mentioned in Despatches twice, Croix De Guerre from France and Belgium, Officer of the Order of The British Empire, Efficiency Decoration and Territorial Force Efficiency Medal in addition to First and Second World War campaign medals!

Chipp, the son of the Deputy Chief Constable for Herefordshire, had attended the Lady Hawkins school and, in 1899, at age 17 enlisted in the local company of The Herefordshire Rifle Volunteers at Kington.

Chipp's military career progressed, he was promoted Corporal in 1900, Sergeant in 1902 and Colour Sergeant in 1907. He was the Sergeant in charge of the Colour Party when Edward VII opened the Rhayader Dam and water works. On the formation of the Territorial Force in 1908 Chipp enlisted into the 1st Battalion of the newly formed Herefordshire Regiment. He received the King’s Colour on behalf of the Regiment at Windsor from King Edward VII in June 1909. He was also noted as a fine rifle shot.

In August 1915, Chipp landed with the Battalion at Suvla Bay Gallipoli. He wrote home of his comrades who were killed or wounded, of the cunning of 'Johny Turk', the shortages of water and the heat, flies and general misery. He took command of A Company when all the officers became casualties, over a period which included it being cut off for 5 days. He was wounded and hospitalised in Malta suffering from a bullet wound to the arm and bruising to the side. He recovered and rejoined the Battalion at Suvla, and was there when he was informed that he had been Commissioned on 9 October 1915. He was later evacuated through sickness to England before rejoining the Battalion in Egypt.

Chipp then served with the Battalion throughout its time in the Middle East; garrisoning outposts in Western Egypt and the Suez Canal, the battles of Romani, Gaza and Khuweilfeh, and the eventual relief of Jerusalem. He at various times was the Adjutant, company commander and for a time a staff officer on the staff of 158 Brigade. He was promoted captain and major, attended various staff courses, had a hill named after him in the high area of Tel Asur in Judea during the actions of Spring 1918. He was awarded the Military Cross for 'conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty he carried out a valuable recce and cleared up an obscure situation. He readjusted parts of the line with great skill and showed complete disregard of danger' at Khuweilfeh in November 1917.

The Battalion sailed for France on 17 June 1918, ironically (as will be seen later) the convoy was escorted by Japanese destroyers. The great German offensive of the Spring was still not beaten and he had his first experience of the gas and slaughter of the Western Front in the Chateau Thierry area. By September the Battalion was in the Kemmel area and joined the great advance via Menin and Moen, being in reserve in the Wevelghem area on 11 Nov. During this period Chipp found himself as Company commander, Regimental Second in Command and for several periods Commanding Officer; he was always in the thick of the action and he was awarded the DSO for action in the Menin area in Oct 1918 when he ... 'commanded his Battalion with great skill and gallantry, with only part of his command he was ordered to take over the whole front and push on, an extremely difficult operation which he carried out at once under heavy shelling and machine gun and minenwerfer fire. It was entirely due to his own personal recce under fire and perfect control that enabled his men to overcome every obstacle'.

He was one of only two who received 'triple honours' (DSO and bar and MC) from King George V at Buckingham Palace in 1919.

The details of his inter war activities are not known in full, but his military service continued while he worked in the forestry service in India and Malaysia where he served in the Malay States Volunteer Regiment. He was made OBE in 1940.

He was a Wing Commander in the Admin and Special Duties Branch of the RAFVR at the time of the fall of Singapore in 1942, and was captured and endured over 3 years as a prisoner in Changi prison where he was appointed chief librarian. He was released and returned to England in 1946 aged 64. There is a handwritten account 'The Observer Corps, events leading up to the surrender of Singapore' which concludes 'despite the Jap searches the Observer Corps nominal roll was kept hidden and is still in the possession of the writer' signed W F Chipp Commanding. Chipp obviously had a penchant for hiding things. As illustrated by an account which he wrote and which was published in the KSLI and Herefordshire Regimental Journal, in brief:

'Having had some slight experience of the Japanese, and hearing first hand accounts of their behaviour since the invasion began, it was evident that any valuables in possession of prisoners, or abandoned would be quickly annexed .... I had in my possession my decorations and medals and was determined if possible to hide them from our captors........

For a secure hiding place I consulted ... the director of museums …. He suggested a safe hiding place could probably be found in the Raffles Museum ....... On the evening of the capitulation, 15 February 1942, we went to the museum........ The problem of finding a hiding place for my small case was solved by my friend who took me to the reptile room on the first floor. The larger models were mounted on hollow plaster casts, and in one of these I concealed my case.

Then 3 years and 7 months after the British surrender, came the capitulation of the Japanese on 3 September 1945 .... the Japanese guards were replaced by Ghurkas and no one was allowed to leave except by special permission .... On 6 September my old friend Colonel JP Read CBE (RA) came to the camp to enquire of his old acquaintances. I told him of the hidden case and a few days later received special permission to accompany him into Singapore, ..... the museum was locked, but we found an assistant, the same one that had admitted us 4 years previously, and entered the museum ..... the reptile room was found to be locked and all exhibits covered by sheeting. The assistant explained that the Japanese disliked reptiles and had kept the room locked during their occupation ... lifting up the hamadryad I quickly found my case with contents intact.....

A fascinating account, and perhaps one would think that Chipp had had enough of military service, but on return to UK he joined the reformed Home Guard as Lieutenant Colonel, commanding the 11 County Of London Battalion. His probable last appearance in uniform was on Armistice day 1956 when he commanded the Home Guard, Guard of Honour at the Grave on the Unknown Soldier in Westminster Abbey.

Chipp died in 1970 and there were many fond words in various obituaries that were published 'a truly great man who served others consistently throughout his life', 'as good a soldier that could be found', 'a truly great man has passed on'.